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BēonThis verb was highly suppletive and in OE employed two separate words/roots

23. Changes in the verb conjugation

Unlike the morphology of the noun and adjective, which has become much simpler in the course of history, the morphology of the verb displayed two distinct tendencies of development: it underwent considerable simplifying changes, analyti­cal forms and new grammatical categories.

The decay of OE inflections, which transformed the nominal system, is also apparent in the conjugation of the verb though to a lesser extent. Many markers of the grammatical forms of the verb were reduced, levelled and lost in ME and Early NE; the reduction, levelling end loss of endings resulted in the increased neutralisation of formal oppositions and the growth of homonymy. ME forms of the verb are represented by numerous variants, which reflect dialectal differences and tendencies of potential changes. The intermixture of dialectal features in the speech of London and in the literary language of She Renaissance played an important role

Number distinc­tions were not only preserved in ME but even became 'more consistent and regular; towards the end of the pe­riod, however, — in the 15th c. — they were neutralized.

In the 13th 14th c the ending –en became the main, almost universal, marker of the pl forms of the verb. The ending en was fre­quently missed out in the late 14th c. and was dropped in the 15th; the Past tense stems of the strong verbs merged into one form. All number distinc­tions were thus lost with (he exception of the 2nd and 3rd p.. Pres.. tense Indie, mood.

The forms of person were used in ME, though they became more variable. The OE endings of the 3rd p sg –eр –p merged into a single ending –(e)th

The variant ending of the 3rd p; -es was a new marker first recorded in the Northern dialects. In Chaucer's works we still find the old ending -eth. Shakespeare uses both forms, but forms in -s begin to prevail. By the end of 18th c. -es was the dominant inflection of the 3rd p. sg in all forms of speech

The ending -(e)st of the 2nd p. sg became obsolete together with the pronoun thou. The replacement of thou by you/ye eliminated the distinction of person in the verb paradigm — with the exception of the 3rd p. of the Present tense.



Owing to the reduction of endings and leveling of forms the formal differences between the moods were also greatly obscured. In OE only a few forms of the Indicative and In ME the homonymy of the mood forms grew.

The distinction of tenses was preserved in the verb paradigm through all historical periods. As before, the Past tense Aspect voice


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Old English weak verbs and their further development | Verbals in the history of English
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